August has been hotter than a live wire

It may not seem like it, but August temperatures have stayed at or above 100 degrees for most of the month according to AccuWeather.

But it wasn’t until August 13 that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued an Energy Emergency Alert 1 (EEA1) for the first time since January 2014 and it issued a second one on August 15.

Graphic represents EEA level and appropriate action that are taken to reduce energy use statewide.

These alerts are issued by ERCOT when operating reserves are low. During the August 13 and 15 events, ERCOT requested energy conservation to help maintain the reliability of the electric system. Statewide energy conservation can help reduce energy use and prevent the need for rotating outages. Rotating outages are rare but can occur whenever the demand for electricity in the state is greater than the supply. When this happens, CPS Energy is given a directive by ERCOT to reduce electric consumption by implementing outages to customers in its service territory. Once the requested amount of load reduction is achieved, outages will then rotate throughout the city until ERCOT has lifted its directive. By rotating the outages, the goal is to minimize the amount of time each customer is affected. Usually, before any rotating outages are implemented, CPS Energy and other utilities will ask their customers to voluntarily conserve energy to reduce the amount of electrical demand statewide.

ERCOT keeps a specified level of operating reserves during real-time operations. This means, a little extra power on the grid to ensure there is adequate supply of electricity for Texas residents. Operating reserves fell below 2,300 megawatts (MW) on August 13 and 15. During normal grid conditions, ERCOT’s operating reserves are at or above 3,000 MW. For reference, 1 MW is enough energy to power about 200 homes during the hottest part of a Texas summer day.

Want real-time updates on the ERCOT grid – and tips on how to effectively conserve electricity during peak times? ERCOT has a free smartphone app that will make energy conservation a little bit easier for iPhone, iPad and Android users. Android and iPhone users can find the free ERCOT app by searching tor ERCOT in the Apple and Google Play app stores.

We had a great response from the San Antonio community and others across the state, and we appreciate that. The alert was canceled on both days and the grid returned to normal operations. If our customers had not conserved, the utility’s energy usage most likely would have increased and put more strain on the ERCOT grid. So, before you question whether turning off a light switch or bumping up the thermostat makes a difference, just know that every little bit goes a long way.

Did you know in Texas the peak of energy use comes between 3 – 7 p.m. when the temperatures get hotter and air conditioners work harder to keep your home or business cool. Saving energy is never a bad idea, especially when you are trying to be frugal on your energy costs. Energy use shows up on your bills the month after it has been used. So, keep in mind when you receive your September billing statement, it will include many days when temperatures were above 100 degrees.  CPS Energy broke an energy usage record on Monday, August 26 with 5,159 MW of consumption.

As a utility, we have enough generation capacity to provide electricity for our customers. However, because we are part of the ERCOT system, we are contributors to the statewide electric grid. When energy consumption in Texas is high, it directly affects us and our ability to provide reliable electricity to our community.

Temperatures are expected to top out at 100 degrees again before the end of this month.  Below are some tips to help you save money not only for the remainder of the summer, but year-round.

  • Set thermostats 2 to 3 degrees higher, from 3 -7 p.m.; set programmable thermostats to higher temperatures when no one is home. The optimum energy saving temperature is 78 degrees.
  • Use fans to feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler.
  • Minimize use of pool pumps between 4 – 6 p.m.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.

To also increase energy effectiveness at work, business customers should:

  • Minimize the use of electricity lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
  • Consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

Keep in mind, you have control over how many energy saving measures you’d like to implement. Being mindful of energy use, shifting the use of high energy demand appliances to outside of the 3 – 7 p.m. window can make a big difference, not only for the electric grid, but on your own energy bills.

John Moreno

John is part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

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